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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Fortify Rights

On October 9, 2016, a previously unknown Rohingya militant group calling itself Harakah al-Yaqin attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. Armed mostly with sticks, knives, and improvised explosive devices, the group killed nine state security officials. After renaming itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in March 2017, the group waged a second attack on 30 police outposts and an army base on August 25, 2017, killing 12 officials. ARSA claimed the attacks were a response to protracted discriminatory treatment and persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Immediately following both of those attacks, the Myanmar Army launched clearance operations—a term the military uses to describe ongoing multiagency efforts to combat and apprehend Rohingya militants.

In practice, the military and the Government of Myanmar used such operations as a mechanism to commit mass atrocities against Rohingya men, women, and children.

Over the past year, Fortify Rights and the Simon-Skjodt Center documented how the Myanmar Army, Air Force, Police Force, and armed civilians carried out an unprecedented, widespread, and systematic attack on Rohingya civilians throughout northern Rakhine State with brutal efficiency. Eyewitness testimony documented in this report reveals how Myanmar state security forces and civilian perpetrators committed mass killings. State security forces opened fire on Rohingya civilians from the land and sky. Soldiers and knife-wielding civilians hacked to death and slit the throats of Rohingya men, women, and children, and Rohingya civilians were burned alive. Soldiers raped and gang-raped Rohingya women and girls and arbitrarily arrested men and boys en masse.

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